exploring, examining, exchanging, expressing
Thursday, March 29, 2007
First Class
It's a common theme for my time in Costa Rica: planning is worthwhile, but plans are generally worthless.

I had prepared a fairly comprehensive lesson on job interview skills for an intermediate English class. As I was being driven to the business location, I was informed that I should speak slowly. "Uno momento," I thought to myself. I shouldn't need to really slow down for an intermediate class. This group must be a little lower. The two hours of lively discussion I had envisioned was quickly turning into a bigger challenge.

My fears were confirmed when I launched into the lesson. My warm-up questions were met largely with blank stares. Tough crowd. Time to regroup and plan a new route of attack.

I have them do some reading aloud so that I can better judge their level. See, I'm at a disadvantage here for several reasons. This is my first attempt at solo teaching. I'm nervous myself. I can't let them know that, though. I've been introduced as the "business expert." And I've never worked with these students before. I'm not their normal teacher. I won't likely ever work with them again. I'm basically a glorified subsitute at this point. Remember how you treated subs in school? Yah. So I've got that going for me, too. Plus, they've all just come off a hard day's work. They're fading fast. I'm not going to get too many chances here. But, since I had them read out loud, I have a better idea of who the strong students are. They will help me keep things moving.

The two-team competition I'd planned turned into a flop. One group did great. The other group didn't understand the task. I begin to feel like a failure.

It's time to get to the meat of the lesson. We're going to work on actual interviews. This is make-or-break time. My timing is a little off. I still have too much time to kill. Timing is a skill that comes with experience. I need a lot of work on this. But, given their level, I have a feeling that this task might take a good long time. And it turns out I'm right, for once. We get off to a rough start. I have a hard time explaining the task. But I give them some leeway and let them use a little Spanish and they all get it eventually. We're asking questions! We're interviewing each other!

Time ticks away.

With about 20 minutes left in class, I finally start to feel comfortable. We're laughing and getting into a groove. It took awhile, but we got there. I try to recap a few key points before we finish. I know they're not ready to ace an interview in English yet, but hopefully I've laid a little groundwork. I hope they got something out of it, at least. They thank me, and the men shake my hand as they leave.

I suddenly wish I were a better teacher.

Then I realize I need to find my way home. One of the students offers to drop me off in San Jose, where I can catch my bus. Once again, I am saved by the kindness of strangers.

A few minutes of driving, and I have no idea where we are. I begin to worry that I am too trusting. What if she drops me off at the wrong place? What if I can't find my bus stop? It's very dark and very late and I'm a gringo in a tie - I won't make it too far on my own. Nothing looks familiar and we've been driving for awhile. I venture a question: "Parque Central?" It's just two blocks away. Whew! I'm dropped off and away I go.

And here I am. Safe and sound. Ready to teach another day.

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Anonymous phillydude said...
congratulations, gringo. now get a real job. ;-0